Jones is the award-winning author of In the Footsteps of Daniel Boone, and Before They Were Hereos at Kings Mountain. Since 2007, he has served as an invited member of the Road Scholars Speakers Bureau of the North Carolina Humanities Council. In 2014, he received the History Award Medal from the National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution.
Daniel Boone is America’s pioneer hero and he lived in North Carolina for 21 years, from the ages of 18 to 39. It was in our state where he seasoned his hunting and woodsman skills before moving on to Kentucky at mid-life, already with a spouse and several children.
Most of Boone’s exploits and adventures in North Carolina took place from 1752 to 1773. He spent most of his time in the northern Carolina piedmont, the high country—in the Yadkin River valley from Salisbury upstream to the Blue Ridge Plateau—and his namesake town, Boone. In 1756 he married Rebecca Bryan, the granddaughter of Morgan Bryan who owned extensive tracts of land in the present-day region of Yadkin and Davie counties.
Since Boone committed himself to the life of a market hunter, he was a well-known personality in the frontier town of Salisbury where he traded his hides, pelts, and furs for shot, powder, traps, and provisions. However, Salisbury was generally about as close as Daniel Boone got to Mecklenburg County until 1765. That was the year he embarked on one of his lesser-known adventures, one which brought him right through the heart of today’s Charlotte.
It was around 255 years ago, when Boone and a few of his family members joined several hunting companions from Culpeper County, Virginia, on an expedition to Florida in 1765. Great Britain had recently been given control of Florida from Spain as a result of the Seven Years War, known in America as the French and Indian War. In an attempt to establish the colony as worthy of the Crown, British ministers awarded large tracts of land to American colonists willing to move to homesteads.
So, after that fall’s harvest, these North Carolinians and Virginians rode down to Florida to investigate. They followed the Great Wagon Road through the spot where Charlottetown would be plotted three years later and most likely down the Catawba River toward Camden. They made their way southward toward the South Carolina coast where they picked up the King’s Highway, or some rustic equivalent, and continued into coastal Georgia. They arrived in St. Augustine, the capital of East Florida, where they inquired about the available land and the terms offered by the British Crown.
While considering the opportunity presented, these men decided to investigate the possibilities of West Florida, choosing to ride through the swamps and unfamiliar terrain of the region’s panhandle. The men got lost in the flat land and became separated from one another. Game was scarce and they nearly starved to death until they stumbled upon an Indigenous village. After the friendly Seminole revived them with venison and honey, the frontiersmen continued riding westward, eventually reaching Pensacola.
When Boone first spied Pensacola Bay, he became enthralled with the possibilities for hunting deer in the backcountry and selling those hides more easily and more profitably at a port town. So enamored was he with this notion that Boone bought a town lot in Pensacola with the intention of moving his family there.
Boone promised Rebecca that he would be home by Christmas, so in early December, the men turned toward home. The men rode through what is today southeast Alabama and across the center of Georgia to Augusta where they again picked up a leg of the Great Wagon Road. They made good time on their return trip, so much so, that Boone slowed down their pace as they passed back through Mecklenburg County. He arrived back home on Christmas Day, stepping into the cabin and regaling his family with stories of how grand living in Pensacola would be.
Regardless of his stories, Boone never moved his family to Florida. Since Boone spent so much time away from home, Rebecca relied on the help of extended family nearby. Therefore, it is believed Rebecca was not fond of the idea to move so far from those who helped support her and her family during Boone’s absenses. Boone soon set his sights in a new direction. He moved the next year with his family and several relatives to the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains along the upper Yadkin River.
Although he had not moved any closer to Charlotte, Boone would soon discover just how close he was to Kentucky and his enduring fame as America’s pioneer hero.
Randell Jones, In the Footsteps of Daniel Boone, (Winston-Salem: John F. Blair, Publisher) 2005.